Riverhead ZBA OK’s 60-sq.-ft Costco sign; code allows for 9 sq. ft.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Costco store in Holbrook.

Costco is coming! Costco is coming!

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday approved a billboard-like, albeit temporary, sign essentially telling “the world” that Costco is coming to the shopping planned for the former Hazeltine site on Route 58 — between Riverhead Auto Mall and Out East Family Fun — while advertising the rest of the site for potential tenants.

The applicant, Heritage Riverhead Retail Developers, LLC, had requested a 72-square-foot sign, or 6 X 12 feet, that would be located at the front of the property.

But the town code allows for a maximum 9 square feet, according to the application.

After debating the issue back and forth with Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicant, the ZBA eventually agreed to allow a 60-square-foot, or 5 X 12 feet,  sign for one year. The sign would be subject to renewal by the ZBA after that.

Rose Sanders, a former town councilwoman, was the only member of the ZBA who voted against the measure.

“We know Costco is coming,” Mr. Danowski said. “But there are other buildings to be constructed on the proposed site plan, and tenant leases have not been accomplished on the remainder of the site.”

He said the developer wants a big sign to attract tenants by telling them that Costco, the popular wholesale store, is coming as an anchor tenant.

The development, called Shops at Riverhead, will be about 270,000 square feet, and is currently undergoing an environmental impact study at the the town’s planning department, Mr. Danowski said.

Mr. Danowski plans to deliver some of the final remaining documents to the town this week, and he hopes the application will be voted on by the Town Board by the end of the year, he said. The application is no longer seeking to use farmland development rights, which could have increased its size by about 77 percent, according to Mr. Danowski.

“We need this size,” Mr. Danowski told the ZBA of the sign. “It’s temporary in nature and I expect that at the end of two or three years, the buildings will be constructed and occupied.”

“Why don’t you come in with something that’s not that big?” ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin asked.

Mr. Danowski said the 43-acre site is large and a smaller sign would “get lost in the shuffle” and not be noticed.
The developer plans to have part of the sign announce Costco is coming, with another part featuring a design of the site while indicating that space is available.

“So, as a tenant, I’m going to walk by or drive by the sign and read about where I would like to be” Ms. Sanders asked. “I don’t buy that argument. I’m sorry.”

Mr. Danowski said one of the principals of the development company, who has a summer house in the area, recently drove by the site and wondered why the group had no sign on the land advertising for tenants.

“The size of the sign is very important to the client,” Mr. Danowski said. “He’s trying to establish a tax base in the town. Costco is an anchor tenant that will attract other tenants. They will want to be there because Costco is coming.

“So we have to tell the world that Costco is coming.”

“I’m all for Costco coming here and bringing other tenants, but it’s not going to be a 72-square foot sign,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

ZBA members eventually settled on the 60-square-foot sign.

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